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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

While I’m on the subject of Microsoft

Posted by simon on 2016/11/28
Posted in Technology  | Tagged With: , , , | 1 Comment

Here’s two free eBooks:

Spoiler: they’re about computer-y stuff. Don’t read if you’re hoping for a whodunnit.

SQL Server on Linux

Posted by simon on 2016/11/28
Posted in Technology  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Microsoft have a preview of SQL Server for Linux now. There’s even an install guide. Good times.

A while ago I did a post of news about Microsoft. I’ve been collecting things that catch my eye ever since, and they do worry me about my career as a Microsoft developer. Like many developers in the Microsoft ecosystem, I need Microsoft to be strong and take the fight to the opposition. Unfortunately, right now, that ain’t happening. Here’s more news. For me, it’s grim reading.

  1. Apple’s iPad Mini makes up 60% of iOS sales – and next year iOS is predicted to outsell ALL versions of Windows
  2. Intel are recommending PC manufacturers make Android laptops – that’s right. Not Windows ones.
  3. Microsoft’s stock slides after dismal PC shipment reports
  4. Windows 8 blamed as PC sales slide 20%
  5. while Apple keeps on growing
  6. Goldman rates Microsoft’s stock as a sell
  7. Netflix drops Silverlight – although to be fair, Silverlight has been moribund for ages
  8. Microsoft now supports Linux on its cloud services – another Rubicon crossed
  9. Apple makes 5 times more profit than the 5 biggest Windows PC makers combined
  10. Even Microsoft’s chum Intel is suffering as profits drop 25 percent
  11. Google predicts there will be 1,000,000,000 Android phones out there by the end of the year
  12. Popular (with shareholders) CFO Peter Klein left after the Q3 results (why? what does he know that we don’t?)
  13. while Google’s revenues are up a massive 31%
  14. Apple’s lead in tablet usage stakes is brutal
  15. Microsoft is bringing back the Start button – an unexpected (if welcome) u-turn
  16. After good numbers for Q3, they’re bracing themselves for bad news from Windows
  17. although those good numbers are a bit of smoke and mirrors
  18. Another one bites the dust: IBM’s trying to sell its x86 server business – and that’s a good move, according to IBM resellers
  19. Analysts say Windows on ARM is as good as dead – leaving Microsoft’s only hope as Intel
  20. Blackberry sales are resurgent
  21. Microsoft won’t be buying Nokia
  22. while Huawei could well be (and they’d probably ditch Windows Phone if they did)
  23. IDC says Windows 8 has put the world’s PC market to sleep
  24. There’s STILL no Instagram for Windows Phone
  25. Microsoft whistleblower suggests Windows losing to Linux
  26. Yes another one bites the dust as Samsung leaves the PC biz

I haven’t even listed half the articles I’ve collected since last time. I haven’t mentioned the Xbox One DRM fiasco either. Or how EU governments are banning US based cloud services over PRISM.

It’s getting worse.

Where did I put that book on iOS development? Time to fire up my copy of XCode…

Dishonesty, Dishonestly

Posted by simon on 2013/06/12
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It’s funny how all the disclosures about the NSA’s PRISM spying programme have mentioned specific things that companies don’t do, such as handing user content over to the US Government, but don’t mention what they were accused of: sending communications metadata in bulk. Read the disclaimers: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook… they all say much the same thing.

Of course, it’s easy to deny something you’ve never been accused of in the first place. But also failing to deny the thing you were accused of – that looks suspicious.

Another reason to be more careful online. Personally, I use StartPage as my search engine because IxQuick that runs it is based in the EU, not subject to US law and doesn’t provide information to the US government.

Now it looks like more reasons to use other systems too.

How long will cloud services from Microsoft and others survive? I’m sure EU governments are already considering a move, and it’s likely they’ll impose the same standards on their providers. It’s not enough to close these services, but it doesn’t help.

These disclaimers though… thou canst not equivocate to heaven.

PS: apologies to My First Tooth for blatantly misquoting one of their song titles. I couldn’t find it on YouTube either, so here’s the video for “Past Broadcasts“:

There’s been an awful lot of rumours about Intel and takeovers recently. One, that Intel is about to buy (or merge) with AMD. Another, that Apple might be about to buy Intel. Well, there aren’t that many companies that have the financial clout to buy Intel, but there are a few that might want to buy them. Here’s what I think.

  • Apple
    A takeover of Intel by Apple would make perfect sense for Apple, if not Intel. In fact, I’d say it ought to be right at the top of Tim Cook’s “To Do” list.Apple have recently started designing their own ARM chips for iPads and iPhones. It would make sense to buy Intel, decommission some of the products and turn their fabs over to making their own chips – which they’ve been designing themselves for a few years now. It means not having to deal with pesky outside suppliers like Samsung, with whom they have a bit of a history.

    It would prove disruptive in the external market too – they could easily drop the mobile chips for external suppliers, which although it would pass the market over to AMD for Windows laptops, and effectively kill the Surface Pro, it would have a strategically far more important result – ending Intel’s push for Android. And more traction for Android is something Apple can’t really allow to happen.

  • Oracle
    Oracle earn bucketloads of cash, and already own the SPARC architecture through Sun – a hardware business they’ve been growing. Owning Intel would give them a way into the x86 server market, either with Solaris on x86 or their own version of Linux. It would also essentially give Oracle a very hefty slice of the “Windows tax”, as they would now be providing the chips for probably 80% of the Windows market. It would give them access directly to Intel’s design department, with the inevitable consequence that Intel could produce a line of processors “optimised for Java”.If Oracle really wanted to play hardball, of course, it wouldn’t then be out of the way to suggest to Microsoft that if they want that ready supply of Intel chips to continue, they might want to consider discontinuing that pesky “SQL Server” product with immediate effect – whether that’s legal or not, I’ll let the lawyers fight over, but I can imagine it causing Larry Ellison to purr with delight; it is, after all, pretty much the same sort of squeeze Microsoft put on OS/2 back in the day.
  • Microsoft
    Legally speaking, this one would probably be the most difficult to achieve. I can imagine the DoJ would have something to say, and AMD would be right there, knocking on the door.Nevertheless, Intel’s recent announcement of upcoming Android notebooks must be alarming Redmond, and I can imagine that being pretty high up on Microsoft’s list of “things we really don’t want to happen”.
  • Google
    This one is quite the maverick on this list, but let’s think a moment.Google got into the hardware market by buying Motorola – mainly as a hedge to get Microsoft off Android’s back. That didn’t work. Owning Intel would pull the rug out from Microsoft, and essentially reverse the balance of power between the two companies, forever. Google would be able to dictate terms, and Microsoft could do little more than acquiesce meekly, knowing that Google essentially controlled enough patents, and enough of the market structure, to play enough hardball to strangle Microsoft’s businesses at any second. Certainly, the “Android tax” would stop overnight – it would have to, if Microsoft wanted to continue to work with the makers of Android – who would now be the largest supplier of the chips on which the vast majority of their software runs. Their only route out would be to push Windows entirely to an ARM-based infrastructure – something that’s not working very well right now.

As John-Louis Gassee pointed out, Intel are weak right now. They’re ripe to be taken over. For Apple or Google, Intel would represent the prize: control of the industry.

If Intel survives as a separate entity by the end of the year, I’ll be extremely surprised.

And once they’re gone, who’ll buy AMD?

21 Reasons Why Microsoft Might Be Dying

Posted by simon on 2013/04/08
Posted in Technology  | Tagged With: , , , | 1 Comment

As someone who develops with the Microsoft tool chain – particularly with .Net – the signs from Microsoft recently haven’t been overly encouraging recently. And that worries me – I’ve been developing using the Microsoft stack for 18 years and if they disappear, so does my career. But the writing’s looking to be on the wall:

  1. Some people at IBM think Windows 8 might be Microsoft’s OS/2. Ouch.
  2. Windows Phone is only 4.7% of the market, and while it’s growing, the top 2 players take 94.7% of the market – up from 92.4% last year
  3. In China, the world’s largest mobile phone market, the news is worse – Nokia sales are crashing, while Samsung is tops
  4. Another revenue stream dries up as Google stops licensing Exchange ActiveSync for its GMail product
  5. Facebook Home might be a clone of Windows Phone’s ‘people-centric’ UI, but it just brought Windows Phone’s consumer USP to their biggest rival. Ooops.
  6. Despite rumours since September and a petition on change.org, the Facebook (and therefore indirectly-part-Microsoft-owned) Instagram still isn’t available on Windows Phone
  7. As of January, Nokia were still selling twice as many Linux-based phones as Windows Phone ones
  8. Indy game developers prefer Sony to Microsoft these days, removing one of the Xbox’s key selling points.
  9. Microsoft have slashed Windows 8 OEM prices to try and revive the market, knocking 75% off the price of their biggest profit centre.
  10. Gartner predicts a fall of 7.6% in PC sales in 2013, while Apple Mac sales rose 31% overall last year, despite a weak start to 2013.
  11. Google are now a hardware player, and their Chromebook starts at about the full price of a retail Windows 8 licence
  12. You couldn’t make this up: Thieves broke into Microsoft. And just stole the iPads.
  13. Microsoft’s smartphone market share dropped after the launch of Windows Phone 8.
  14. The Surface tablets have sold about a third the number Microsoft ordered
  15. Actually the news for Internet Information Server isn’t all bad – it’s back to 20% market share, its highest since October 2010 – but still lower than every survey since 1996.
  16. Dell told the SEC that slow sales of Windows 8 and Windows 7 are a prime factor in its recent troubles that might lead to a takeover.
  17. The EU fined Microsoft $731 million for breaching their antitrust agreement over the browser choice screen – presumably one of the costliest oversights of all time.
  18. Apple’s App Store takes 74% of app store spend, while Google Play is 51% of all downloads. Even the BlackBerry store is over 100,000 apps now.
  19. SharePoint is being replaced by third party apps at multinationals on an almost daily basis
  20. 40% of PCs are still running Windows XP, despite this being three versions out of date (I wonder how many are still running Windows 2000?)
  21. Microsoft just sold their IPTV business, just as the consumer-savvy Apple might be going into the IPTV business.

This is depressing.

You know I could go on and on with these, and I haven’t really found any good news. As someone who relies on Microsoft for a living, this is really really depressing – and a bit scary.

Please, Microsoft, get your act together – I need some good news!

Ars Technica makes a pretty good case that the sales of Windows 8 are pretty good so far. On a par with Windows 7, in fact – the Wall Street Journal estimated 40 million copies were sold in that first month for Windows 7 too. So everything looks peachy, right?

Not from where I’m sitting. Here’s the problem as far as I see it.

Windows 7 – like Vista – was launched with a special discount: everyone who’d bought a PC in the last 6 months got Vista at a serious reduction – the cost was £12.99 in my case, which is basically the cost of media and shipping and handling. The same discount applies to Windows 8, too.

The difference is that Windows 8 also has an “early bird” discount, too. When it came to Windows 7 or Vista, you paid a lot more without the “recent PC” deal, but there is for Windows 8 – right now I can upgrade for £24.99 (the price on the US site is $39.99).

It doesn’t take a maths wizard to work out that this is only a third of the income for Microsoft. But also it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this discount isn’t making any difference. The people that bought Windows 8 so far are much the same ones that bought Windows 7 last time around.

Of course, it’s too early to tell exactly what the implications of this are, but it represents a real opportunity. For Apple, for Android, and for desktop Linux. For someone like me, who’s spent an entire career developing with Microsoft products? Well, let’s just say I’m not sleeping as well as I used to…

Many of the press are reporting that the immediate departure of Steven Sinofsky, head of the Windows division, is a bad thing. Wall Street isn’t happy, they report. And yet, I can’t help thinking that this is a really good thing for Microsoft.

To be honest, the Surface has had modest sales. It’s not been the success many people were hoping for. The fairly pleasing early sales of Windows 8 might well be down to a huge discount (as low as $19.99, depending on when you buy it, or bought your PC) for downloadable upgrades. Many corporates, however, will be content to wait for Windows 9 – and many of those are still upgrading from XP, of course.

But this is a sea change – a complete change of focus to make Windows more relevant in the new touch tablet era. So why is the departure of the man who made it happen such a good thing?

If Windows 8 failed, the argument ran, the targets on the backs of both Steve Baller and Steven Sinofsky would be obvious to Wall Street. With Sinofsky gone, Ballmer now has the freedom to restructure. More importantly, he has someone to blame. Windows was one of Microsoft’s biggest cash cows – any blip in it can easily be attributed to its previous manager’s missteps, and corrected.

Of course, that’s a high risk strategy for Ballmer, but there are plenty of corporates who will sit on their hands and just pay the Select Agreement fees, thus fending off the end of the franchise for another dozen years yet. Windows doesn’t need to be relevant, except in the corporate world, if Microsoft don’t feel they want it to be. Other than the perpetually money-losing Xbox division, Microsoft’s not in consumer-land to a great extent (Zune? Bob? Encarta?) so it’s not such great shakes if Windows doesn’t enter the consumer market that much.

But the main issue, of course, is Ballmer’s beloved “developers, developers, developers“. With the confusion over .Net, the way that Windows Store is based around Windows RT, and that Windows 8 pretty much deprecates .Net, throwing away ten years of hard work building up the ecosystem around the very successful .Net / Visual Studio platform, many developers have been feeling that Microsoft just wants to make their life harder, not easier – as though MS doesn’t want a nice populated app store (the fact that they have two of them – one for Windows 8, one for Windows Phone – is a facepalm of catastrophic magnitude, but that’s an aside).

The truth is, in my view, the departure of Sinofsky is one of the best things that could have happened to Microsoft in years – before he did much more damage.

Google Android is the worldwide leading smartphone OS in terms of shipments. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. iOS is the leading smartphone OS in terms of developer revenue, and I don’t think anyone would dispute that either. That Apple hates Android and would like to kill it – well, that may have been true under Steve Jobs.

But things are changing – Apple are introducing 4G, and beefing up Siri. Voice recognition and voice search are areas where Google do have quite a big patent portfolio, and both Google (through Motorola) and Samsung have 4G patents. So this could run and run.

The problem is, as has been pointed out in a few news sources, the Apple v Samsung trial hasn’t really hurt Samsung’s image, whereas even the Apple faithful are turning on Apple over this one.

If they keep hitting out at each other, there can only be one winner – Microsoft. Read more

All Surface, No Feeling?

Posted by simon on 2012/07/16
Posted in NewsTechnology  | Tagged With: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Microsoft just took a huge gamble. A mega big one. And I’m not sure if they’ve already lost.

Let me start with the background. A few months ago, they announced Microsoft Surface, a shiny Lumia blue tablet thing (apparently it’s hit production problems already – who’dathunkit?)

Today, they announced that Windows on ARM – you know, WinRT – would “include” Microsoft Office. What does “include” mean? Is it included in the price, is it ad supported, like Office 2010 Starter? Or will it require an Office 365 subscription in order to use it? Read more